Bookish Special Events: How We Do It

No need to fall into a rut of the same sorts of bookish meeting each time – there are many ways to branch out and plan special events that still lend themselves to fabulous discussions. Here are some of the annual events that my book club has – it ends up so that every two or three months is a “special” meeting, and that keeps us from getting overwhelmed with preparations and plans for those special dates, but also gives us things to look forward to frequently.

Booked Special Events

Thank you to Sarah Ronk for the photos included in this post!

Tea Party

This works especially well if you pick a book that ties into this type of event. Books set in England, Jane Austen works, or quiet novels all fit well. We generally meet at a member’s house, and then serve two or three varieties of tea, as well as tea-friendly refreshments. One year we even had a teacup exchange, for those who wished to participate in it. Last year’s title was The Road from CoorainThe Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway, and in previous year’s we’ve had The Secret Keeper: A NovelThe Secret Keeper: A Novel by Kate Morton and The Good Earth. (Read more about our tea parties).

tea party

Summer Picnic

The book has rarely been connected to the event, but it’s still been fun to have one evening where we meet at a park and have a pitch-in/pot luck meal. Last year’s pick for this event was Seabiscuit: An American LegendSeabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand, and previous years titles have included The Professor and the MadmanThe Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester and Les Misérables. (Read more about our picnics).

summer picnic

Younger Readers Meeting

Once a year we pick a book we can read with our children and all discuss it. This year for the first time we’re going to combine it with the picnic – that may or may not continue in the future. The children in our group skew young, so we go for children’s literature, not young adult titles, although this might change in the future as our young readers grow up. Last year’s pick for this event was HeidiHeidi by Johanna Spyri, which ended up being hard to discuss as everyone had read different translations, and it made a huge difference in the questions and answers at those ages! Previous picks have included The Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum and A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet)

Dinner Party

Once a year we have a fancier evening, with a sit-down dinner (most meetings are finger-foods only). Last year was the most elaborate ever, as we discussed Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. Day 31 of 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Books / Great Nonfiction Reads, and had a menu based on the recipes in the book. The main coarse was roasted lamb, and it was fabulous, as everyone else brought something to complete the meal. Earlier this month was our latest dinner party, and we had a simpler plan – soup and salad, as we discussed Northanger AbbeyNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen. If you want to tie the book into the menu, look into food memoirs – they’ve worked beautifully for us in the past. Bread and Wine and A Homemade Life are both excellent choices, as was Garlic and SapphiresGarlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl. Plan for a longer meeting if you want to have enough time to actually discuss the book, as well as enjoy your meal. (Read more about our dinner parties).

dinner party book ideas

Christmas Party

We always close out the year with a Christmas party, and select a book that’s quick and easy (it’s a busy month, with not as much reading time for most of us). We also try to select one that we won’t need as much time to discuss – we spend more time socializing at this meeting than usual. We’ve done gift exchanges in the past – wrapping a favorite non-book-club-book, and writing a few phrases to describe it on the wrapping. People then pick the book that sounds the most intriguing, without knowing what they’re actually selecting. Last year we read Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (a great pick for this event), and this year we’ll be reading 84, Charing Cross Road for our Christmas party meeting, and I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of it! (Read more about our Christmas parties).

Christmas party


The highlight of our book club year is probably our annual retreat. We rent a house for the weekend and spend the time reading, chatting, cooking, eating, and relaxing. Babies are welcome, but no older children, and it ends up being a wonderfully rejuvenating time. It also makes for a great opportunity to discuss the books we want to read next year, without cutting into regular meeting time.

The last two years we’ve read a book flight for our retreats, and we’re planning a variation on that for next year. This year the theme was “New York,” and we read The Great BridgeThe Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge by David McCullough, Rules of CivilityRules of Civility: A Novel by Amor Towles, and When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

book flight

Booked | Reading Together | A Series All about Book ClubsBooked: Reading Together

This is part of the Booked: Reading Together series. Throughout October, I’m writing all about book clubs.

Check out the archives in case you missed a post.

Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: 31 Days of More Great Nonfiction: Wired for Story
Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: The Tipping Point

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  1. I really want to have a book retreat with my book club. I don’t know that it will ever happen, but it would be so amazing!

    I also like the idea of including kids in one meeting. Maybe I’ll do that with my new kindergarten mom book club. We’ll see.

    Your group sounds so great! I have loved all your posts this month.

    • I wasn’t there for the start of my current book club, but it’s something that I think works better after it’s been going for a bit (unless you’re starting it with people you are already friends with). Our first retreat happened for the club’s 5th anniversary (if I’m remembering correctly).

      My group really is great – I’m so fortunate to have found it. I’m not taking the credit for it being so awesome – I came into it when it was already well established and loved it from the start.

  2. What an amazing book club you have! We do good most meetings to just show up!

  3. I loved this post so much that I kept it in my inbox so that I could comment — the fact that four months have passed since it was published tells you how tidy my email habits are — but every one of these ideas sounds wonderful, and I’m looking forward to trying them someday. A dear friend and I have dreams of doing an Anne of Green Gables summer camp for children when ours are a little older, but it’s equally inspiring to see how adults can have some bookish fun!

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